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Jane Bisset and Amy Weare run a frozen meal business called We Are Food, providing home-style meals for your freezer. They cook up dishes from their kitchen in Durban, and meals are available in all We Are Food stores and through deliveries around KZN, Gauteng and Cape Town.

The sister-duo have a passion for food, great-customer service and business. Think: recipe development, ingredient sourcing, production, quality control, sales, marketing, distribution, retail management and, of course, general operations and people management.

Jane and Amy run the frozen meal production kitchen, as well as the retail stores and distribution points throughout South Africa. This power pair chat to Go Hustle writer Ondela Mlandu about how they’re building a business that’s determined to do good.

We Are Food – the brand

We Are Food is all about promoting integrity, quality and excellence, building up the community and focusing on premium customer service. “We are proud of what we stand for, and how we stand out in the crowd against the other large corporates in our field. We’ve learnt a lot since we started in 2013; for us, the most important thing it is to be confident in what you believe in, and the authenticity will be evident,” says Amy.

we are food

Check out their menu ☝️

Passion plus purpose

People and food are this sister-duo’s biggest love! “How lucky are we to get to work daily with something we’ve always loved?” they say.  Their childhood family gatherings were centred around generous feasts and they say it’s their love language, which they now get to share with South Africa.

“We love working alongside our team, figuring out their strengths and helping them set and achieve personal and professional goals. We’re passionate about uplifting unskilled and unemployed people, mainly women, who might not otherwise have another opportunity, and seeing them grow in skill, strength and confidence,” they say.

Words of advice

“The food industry is so diverse and there are so many avenues a young girl can explore if she’s interested in food,” says Amy. The pair advise spending a few months working in a kitchen and the following:

1/ Don’t wait for the ‘perfect’ job to appear. Rather gain actual experience part-time, over weekends or during your holiday, when you’ll get a true insight into what the industry is like.

2/ Sometimes a seemingly great idea in your head doesn’t actually make business sense, or a profitable idea you’ve seen elsewhere just isn’t right for the current South African market. So before you put too much into pursuing a specific idea, test it out in your spare time… Thus you’ll be doing great market research, possibly develop product ideas and gain experience working within a team and relating to customers and suppliers.

READ MORE: Career Advice From A Digital Agency Owner Who’s Helping Other Businesses To Grow

Gain experience…

Many companies offer internships. As a small business, We are Food takes on one to two interns a year, where graduates can get insight into all facets of our business.  The sisters advise anyone wanting to get into the food industry to find someone who does catering, owns a restaurant or runs a food stall at a market. “Busy food businesses are always looking for an extra hand, and if you’re prepared to put in some hard work and enthusiasm, they’ll probably love to have you around and teach you the tricks of the trade,” says Amy.

Online platforms to advance your career

Amy says she loves the online platform UDEMY where you and do affordable online courses in nearly every field you can think of. “This is a great way to dip your toe in the water and get an idea of the industry you’re interested in. If you complete these courses, you can also add them to your CV,” she says.

Women who inspire the duo

“There are a lot of wonderful, strong women in the food business who have paved the way for us, internationally such as Donna Hay and Ella Mills (Deliciously Ella), and locally Jackie Cameron, Prue Leith and Siba Mtongana are amazing role models to look up to,” they say.

Any obstacles in the food business?

Starting out in the food industry, Jane noticed the general trend of men receiving promotions and opportunities ahead of women, and she made up her mind to give women a foot up. Her first employee had been a fellow sous chef who was overlooked numerous times, even though from Jane’s point of view she was the hardest worker there. She’s now the head chef and one of the greatest assets to the We are Food business.

“As an industry that is often in a high pressure working environment with long hours, we’ve realised how difficult it is for women to pursue their careers whole-heartedly while still raising families and often being the bread winner at home,” says the sister-duo.

Amy and Jane are hoping their business can change this. “We’ve enabled our team members to thrive at home and at work by offering manageable working hours and a work environment that proactively nurtures staff.”

Leadership lessons

According to the sisters, companies don’t die because the business fails, they die because the entrepreneur gives up. “Even during the toughest times when we think we can’t go on, whether it be due to financial pressure, issues within our team or operational breakdowns, we always push through with the passion, faith and confidence that we’re building a business that can truly make a difference,” they add.

How to stay motivated as a businesswoman

1/ Being an entrepreneur can sometimes feel lonely, so surround yourself with mentors and people you can bounce ideas off and gain advice from. If you don’t have a mentor, approach a leader in a business you respect and ask them if you can catch up over a coffee. People, by nature, are kind and willing to help – you’ll be surprised how forthcoming they may be.

2/ Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help.

3/ Listen to podcasts, attend motivational seminars, watch TED Talks, go for a run while you blast an uplifting soundtrack; do whatever it takes to keep you motivated, upbeat and excited! No one else is going to pick you up when you’re feeling down, and that’s the difference between succeeding for another day or throwing in the towel.

READ MORE: A Horticulturist Talks How To Turn Your Passion Into A Career

A podcast every woman should listen to…

The sisters enjoy motivational podcasts, as they’re always on the go. Their favourites are:

Conversations of Inspiration – Holly Tucker

How I Built this – Guy Raz

How I Grew My Brand – Mary Nightingale

How this dynamic duo practises self-care

The sisters are early birds. “There’s nothing better than meeting on our Umhlanga promenade at sunrise for a coffee, walk and, of course, a brainstorm session where we catch up and prepare for the day ahead,” they say.

Connect with We are Food…

Instagram: @wearefood_sa

Facebook: wearefood

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